BU’s It’s On Us Chapter Members Pledge to Promote Consent
BU’s It’s On Us Chapter Members Pledge to Promote Consent
More than 300 students have joined the new group
Sexual assault remains a prevalent issue on college campuses across the United States. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 13 percent of all undergrad and grad students have been sexually assaulted. More than 25 percent of all female undergraduates experience assaults through force, violence, or incapacitation. Throughout their college years, they are three times as likely as any woman to endure this trauma.
On Wednesday, more than 300 students from the Boston University chapter of It’s On Us, a national organization dedicated to stopping sexual assault on college campuses, took the organization’s pledge, virtually, to promote a culture of consent, bystander intervention, and survivor support.
The chapter was founded by Sydney Kim (Sargent’21), the group’s president, and Kristen Schallert (CAS’22), vice president, over the summer, and since then the organization has hosted several workshops and guest speakers to help members learn how to intervene before sexual assaults happens and to support survivors.
“With It’s On Us, we want to make sure that whether you’re a survivor, a stranger, someone who’s genuinely serious about learning about this issue, you can feel comfortable in our organization,” says Kim. “The hope is that with the information students gain, they can go on and talk about it with their friends and family and educate other people.”
Kim and Schallert, who previously worked as BU Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP) ambassadors, started the group as an additional place on campus where students could connect with one another.
In a recent BU Today interview, SARP director Nathan Brewer said that more students have requested his group’s assistance recently compared with previous semesters. He attributes this increase in visits (many of them virtual) in part to the fact that quarantine measures have kept people at home with abusive partners for longer periods of time.
But while SARP is a wonderful resource, Kim says, not everyone feels comfortable going there, and that’s where their group comes in.
So far, the chapter has organized several talks featuring authors, sexual response clinic staffers, and medical professionals, who speak to students about their experiences, offer advice to members, and educate them on the neuroscience of trauma, which helps to explain why in the aftermath of their assault, victims might not always remember certain details. Earlier this semester, representatives from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) held two workshops on bystander intervention training and how to support survivors.
During the bystander intervention training, BARCC staff explained how social environments that downplay sexual assault, or even jokes about sexual assault, fuel rape culture and help to promote sexual violence. The training also included activities where members would practice applying the 5-Ds—direct, distract, delegate, delay, and document—to real-life situations.
“When we normalize bottom behaviors such as sexist attitudes, rape jokes, and locker room banter,” Kim says, “we are showing that tolerance of these behaviors supports or excuses higher-up behaviors from catcalling to nonconsensual photos/videos to revenge porn to coercion/manipulation to victim-blaming and shaming to ultimately, assault.
“It was extremely helpful being able to have this activity as they were all realistic scenarios that many of us have either been in or often hear about,” she adds.
The talks and workshops have had to be held virtually, via Zoom, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The best we can do is try to increase engagement as much as we can and make it seem like an in-person experience as much as we can,” Schallert says. But of necessity, some online activities cannot be as effective as they would be in person, she adds, self-defense training, for instance.
“I really wish that these trainings could be in person because that would benefit our members so much, but they really do have to be online right now,” she says.
The semester’s final event was Wednesday, when members joined a Zoom call and took the national organization’s four-part pledge. The four parts of the pledge are: recognize that nonconsensual sex is sexual assault, identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, intervene when consent has not or cannot be given, and create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
Although this is just the chapter’s first semester on campus, it has already drawn more than 300 members. “While it’s been pretty great that our chapter’s been going so quickly and that we’ve received so much interest,” Schallert says, “it’s actually been bittersweet because it shows what a big problem this is on campus.”
Many of the new members are freshmen, who felt that they needed to be educated on this topic early on in their college experience.
“I’ve learned so much about the topic of sexual assault, the topic of sexual harrasment,” says e-board member Sol Sanchez (CAS’24), the chapter’s social media manager. “Just coming here and knowing that I have this resource to educate those around me about how to be an ally for survivors or how to intervene in a potential sexual assault incident is something that I feel is very important.”
Kim says that It’s On Us is hoping to work with other clubs and organizations across campus, including BU Student Government, to increase awareness about sexual assault among the University community.
“Coming in as a freshman, it was something that I needed to be very aware of, so I was very motivated to find a resource on campus that I could be a part of in any way to stop campus sexual assault,” says Julia Ramsey (CAS’24), the group’s PR director and another e-board member.
Schallert says her hope for the group is to build “a community for people to heal together, relate to each other and not feel alone, and to empower each other. To take this and give it to them as a resource is something that’s so important.”
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